It's definitely worth taking serious precautions against coronavirus, but that doesn't mean filling your panic bunker with toilet roll. Here's what you need to know!


Hey friends

There are a lot of things I’d wanted to talk about today, but first we need to have a chat about Coronavirus aka COVID-19. Well, actually, it’s not an “aka” at all. The actual virus is SARS-CoV-2, which can cause the disease COVID-19, a type of Coronavirus, and that is probably the most scientific sentence I will say today.

Misinformation spreads fast so it’s important we’re all on the same page. Here’s a quick catch-up with everything I think you need to know:

What on earth is going on?

Let’s start with the fact that roughly 60% of the coronavirus cases you’ve already heard about are people that by now have already recovered. You may be surprised to know that at the time of writing there are only c.40,000 active cases worldwide, 86% of which are mild and a full recovery is expected. Of the 14% of cases which are more serious, over half will still recover fully. 80% of the cases and deaths so far have been in China, and as the only person I know who has actually been to Wuhan, I can tell you first hand it’s hardly a shining beacon of scientific innovation. Yet even there, the death rate is only 3.8%.

I say this not to make you lax, but to reassure you that the solution is not stocking your panic room with random household goods. This is not a zombie apocalypse. The solution is washing your hands and it only takes 20 seconds.

Government agencies have been issuing all sorts of warnings and announcements but it seems like nobody really knows what they’re doing - not even public officials. President Trump claims to have a supernatural ability to understand medical developments to the point that scientists are asking him for advice.

People don’t even know what it is they’re running from. Is it coronovirus, coronavirus, or corn-or-a-virus? All three spellings have trended globally this week. News outlets and village elders alike have suggested all sorts of solutions from swapping fist bumps for handshakes, to having constant sex - the latter suggesting my untimely demise is imminent. Some people have even begun masturbating furiously to boost production of white blood cells and bolster their immune system. The main issue here being… there’s a good chance they’re still not washing their hands either. In fact, the TL;DR of this entire newsletter issue is please, please, just wash your hands. Oh, and none of this:

https://twitter.com/RexChapman/status/1235974551487623168?s=20

To clear up a few misconceptions:

  • anti-bacterial handwash is probably not going to help you prevent coronavirus.
  • wearing a mask, plastic bag, bucket, or any other strange contraption on your head is unlikely to help much either.
  • I’m still going to keep my anti-bacterial handwash handy and wear my mask on public transport, for reasons I’m about to explain.

What I’ve learned

An entire subsection of the population doesn’t know how to wash their hands. They could walk past proper hygiene in the street and they wouldn’t know a thing. Sorry to that man.

A GIF of Keke Palmer "sorry to this man" meme

Maybe this is something I should have anticipated, after previous revelations that these same sub-sections of the population don’t wash their legs and only shower a few times a week at most. Yet somehow, I’m still appalled.

We are witnessing an apocalyptic #toiletpaperpanic as consumers raid stores for every loo roll available, resorting to street fights and robbing delivery vans to secure their precious cargo - although exactly what the correlation is between washing your hands and exorbitant amounts of toilet paper, I’ll never know. It just shows you how many people have no idea what hand-washing looks like. For many, until last month “hygiene” was just a myth whispered in fables and village tales from times past. We know nothing of the old ways now.

My road to Damascus moment came just last week in a public toilet. While washing my hands I saw a man approach the sink after relieving himself. He stood beside me, regarding the basin with an otherworldly confusion like a chimp faced with a quantum computer. He had read something in the news about this strange object. He knew there was something he was supposed to do but just couldn’t put a finger on it. After realizing the newfangled witchcraft of a hand-activated tap could not be operated by brainpower alone, he simply fixed his tie in the mirror, picked his nose and strolled back out into a crowded networking event. It was at this moment I realized coronavirus was the least of my worries.

Trained physicians have delivered guidance from on-high; a series of complex hieroglyphs detailing the process of washing your hands. My favourite version makes you recite Lady Macbeth’s speech to ensure you’ve spent enough time washing. There are now YouTube tutorials and e-books devoted to the topic.

If you’re not a fan of Shakespeare, here’s another thread of songs with choruses which should be the requisite length of a hand wash (20 seconds).

In the meantime, for those of you in the privileged minority that intuitively knew how to clean your body: keep washing your legs, keep washing your hands - today, tomorrow, and forever.

Even when the hysteria surrounding coronavirus fades out of recent memory and into legend like Ebola, swine flu and bird flu before it, the skills many of you are learning now for the first time will be worth keeping for the rest of your lives. Cherish this secret knowledge. Pass it on to your children. Hand-washers, live long and prosper! 🖖🏽

2 girls wearing raincoat as PPE walking on the sidewalk in New York: A photo by David Elikwu
Photo: by David Elikwu, in New York

Reading list

Books I’ve read/seen/will impulsively buy and add to my “to read” shelf on Goodreads:

  1. How Emotions Are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain by Lisa F Barrett - wishlisted. I overheard someone discussing this and it looks remarkably interesting.
  2. Vox by Christina Dalcher - Impulsively bought. I remember reading about this re-imagining of The Handmaid’s Tale last year, and when I saw it on sale I bought it immediately.
  3. The Thirst by Jo Nesbo - Impulsively bought. Another deal-driven purchase. Jo Nesbo is one of those thriller writers everyone raves about but I hadn’t found the time to start reading his work until now.

Things I’m loving

Films and shows:

  • Altered Carbon - Recommended by Dami, a newsletter reader. I won’t spoil this by explaining too much but the first reason was incredible and the second just dropped on Netflix last week. Watch it!

Apps:

  • Castbox - I get a lot of questions about how/why I actively listen to 57 podcasts. Other than admitting I’m mad, the how is with Castbox. It's worked really well to keep my podcasts organised, and I love that once it downloads the latest episodes of each pod, I can listen to everything back to back like a single playlist. Listening at 3x speed also helps. The only downside is that 3x is the maximum 😉.

Misc:

  • If you’re needlessly obsessed with coronavirus statistics, you can keep up with the latest stats here.
  • Someone is building a 20,000 piece LEGO star destroyer and I am in awe.
  • This Twitter thread lists 40 powerful concepts that aid our understanding of the world. The nerd in me was happy I’d come across most of them already, but this has led to a few other rabbit-holes of research worth jumping down.

Resources

  • Sleep like Android - I’m terrible at getting enough sleep so this app has been incredibly useful in helping me track sleep time and quality for over 6 years. It uses actigraphy to visualise how you sleep, give you feedback and wake you up at the right time. The closest iOS alternative is Sleep Better by Runtastic.
  • Daily inventory / Mental health tracker - used in conjunction with the above, this helps you keep a daily inventory of how well you’re sleeping, eating, exercising, working and more, so you’ll know in advance when you’re heading towards a rut. You’ll get scores and charts based on your responses, and there’s now a daily journaling function as well!

Let me know if you have any suggestions for next week. Feedback is welcome too! Email me or drop me a tweet here.

Until next time!!

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